Billy Butler has been a fixture in the Kansas City Royals lineup since his rookie season of 2007. He was one of the few consistent productive players for the Royals teams that won less than 70 games a year.
But after his best season (2012) – 29 HR 107 RBI .882 OPS 192 Hits – the lineup’s regular designated hitter saw his production drop off. It came at a time when the Royals had a resurgence and made it to the World Series for the first time since 1985. With young players like Alex Gordon ready to starting getting big money, it was an easy decision for Royals’ management to not bring Butler back. The 28-year old agreed to terms with the Oakland A’s Wednesday on a three-year, $30MM deal. It’s a slight bump in salary from the $8MM he earned the last three seasons in KC.
Oakland is looking to Butler to replace some of the offense lost when they dealt Yoenis Cespedis to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester during the 2014 trade deadline. But will Butler be able to supplement the A’s offensive production in 2015? After a drop off to 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 2013, Butler only powered out 9 HR this past season and had a career low .379 slugging percentage.
Butler is a station-to-station base runner and a prototypical designated hitter – he hasn’t played more than 37 games at first base since 2010 – so he needs to rely on his ability to drive the ball to be successful.
He’s making the move from a pretty good hitter’s park to one (Oakland Coliseum) that favors pitchers. Granted, it’s been against the A’s pitchers, but Butler has a career .252 batting average in Oakland and a pedestrian .759 OPS. By comparison, Butler had an .849 career OPS at Kauffman Stadium in KC (and a .766 mark on the road.)
Time will tell, but at $10MM per year, the contract could prove to be a a major bargain, especially for a player under 30.